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Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 09:56PM
On the topic of characters I must disagree. He had his narrator but developed characters very sparsely. Smith, on the other hand, created a great deal of depth for even minor characters, like Zotulla's favorite courtesan, Obexa. A really good example of this is that we know that she's from Uccastrog--and if you've read the other Zothique stories, you understand what this means.

We know that when young, she had a lover whom she betrayed to his death, for amusement, apparently.

And we know that when she was escorted to Namirrah's banquet, under circumstances of extreme duress, upon first seeing Namirrah, the first thing she wondered, to paraphrase Smith was "what he was like in his congress with women...".

That's a lot to know about a minor character. I see nothing that compares to this in Lovecraft.

Similarly, the characters in The Witchcraft of Ulua are all well-formed and individual, even to the king and his queen, to a lesser degree, very minor characters, again.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 04:01PM
About the many faces of H. P. Lovecraft:

Reputation says that Clark Ashton Smith was quite a ladies man. What about Lovecraft?

What did Lovecraft and his wife Sonia do for fun in New York, during their marriage? After all, women hate dull and scrimping men. And I am sure Lovecraft tried his best to please her. Did they visit the jazz clubs, boogie-woogie, and have a few drinks?

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 06:07PM
Lovecraft was a teetotal, but his letters suggest that they entertained at their apartment and went to plays.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 27 March, 2017 09:54PM
It goes without saying that both men had the deepest admiration for one another, and would probably baulk at such a comparison; but as an avid fan of both authors I will offer my two cents.

I understand that stylistic proclivities will govern most peoples thinking, however I'm of the opinion that CAS was a superior writer to HPL in almost all areas, and furthermore, I propose that were the question put before HPL he would state the same (I base this conjecture from reading the correspondence between the two, and the fact that HPL achieved little success in his own lifetime, whilst CAS was a lauded poet who had received critical acclaim from the likes of Sterling and Bierce amongst others).

In terms of prose, descriptiveness, vocabulary, pacing, and imagination, CAS was the clear superior writer, and I doubt that few would contend that HPL could come close to him as a poet. Joshi places CAS amongst the great poets that have come out of the USA, and his contemporaries compared him to Keats and Byron...heady company indeed.

CAS' stories are ageless, someone unfamiliar with his work could read one of his shorts and believe it to be a contemporary piece, whereas HPL's work is clearly dated, and many modern readers will be put off for purely stylistic reasons.

Some will contend that HPL was superior in the arena of horror, but I dispute this claim as well, and am of the opinion that the 'Dweller in the Gulf' is a more curdling, horrific tale than anything in the Lovecraft Canon, and that creatures like the entity in 'The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan' and the snouted fiend from 'The Abominations of Yondo' are more sinister and terrifying than anything conjured by Lovecraft. Smith had the remarkable ability to describe these fantastical, alien creatures in a way that made them seem utterly and completely real. It is this 'tangibility' that makes some of his work so horrifying, and being able to blend believability with such fantastique is a talent that I think Smith alone holds.

Ultimately, aside from Smith's finer writing chops, I think the defining characteristic that elevates him above Lovecraft is this: Smith was a true mystic, a true fantasist who believed in (was intimate with?) the supernatural scape, whereas Lovecraft was a stone-cold materialist, a skeptic who had a talent for writing fantasy/horror stories. There is a vast gulf between those two positions, Smith was in effect, reporting back on mystical visions and hidden things that he had glimpsed, whist Lovecraft was just 'making things up', and had no inherent belief in the veracity of his own horror or fantasy.

CAS was a genius, any who doubt that claim should read his juvenilia, which is utterly remarkable for someone so young. He was self-taught in Latin, French and Spanish to a level required not only for translatory work, but also for writing poetry...remarkable! He had an eidetic memory, and had committed the contents of an unabridged dictionary to memory. I agree with George Haas when he wrote that CAS' tremendous vocabulary is "without parallel in literature...and that I know of no other writer living or dead, who has had at his command such an incredible, comprehensive vocabulary and the ability to use it so effectively."

Comparing CAS and HPL reminds me a little of the old comparisons between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton (bear with me here!). Both men were superlative guitarists, but I think Jack Bruce summarised it best when he said "Eric was just a guitar player, but Jimi was a force of nature" and I think the same sentiment applies to CAS and HPL. HPL was a master of his craft, and his work far excels most that have come before and after, but at the end of the day he was just a writer. CAS was a genius, a true mystic in every sense of the word. The fact that this mysticism was combined with transcendent writing ability is something that has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again.

CAS, the acme of fantasy.

Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 27 Mar 17 | 10:09PM by Zabdamar.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2017 11:22AM
Smith's best fiction often seems relatively unflawed compared to Lovecraft, whose use of first-person narration carried attendant risks. There is a tendency to explain to excess, manifested in repetitive phrasing. Also an overuse of namedropping, as in [i]At the Mountains of Madness [i] when the biologist messages the narrator's party saying that he knows they will understand the impression made upon him because they are familiar with Clark Ashton Smith and the Necronomicon. We ask ourselves, are these really scientists or just members of the Lovecraft Circle? "The Whisperer in Darkness" should have been written in the third-person, possibly as a full-length novel. As it is, few objective critics can take seriously the pretense that Akeley's letters are committed to Wilmarth's memory verbatim after he had destroyed them all prior to visiting Wilmarth. The gullibility of the narrator has been widely observed, and the name-dropping already mentioned recurs of course. The fabric of realism is torn & frayed in Lovecraft, to say the least. A less salient example is the repeated sentence toward the closing of "The Colour out of Space"-- the phrases "deep skyey voids" and "an odd timidity" are portentous at the beginning of the story but rather pointless at the end.
Smith's fantasies are less grounded in realism or what might be called the rhetoric of horror (Zabdamar notes this), yet they sustain reader-involvement more creditably due to his masterful control of narrative distance. Conceptually and stylistically, they have exerted a uniformly positive influence on the development of fantastic fiction, excepting Lin Carter but including Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Tanith Lee, and Harlan Ellison. The same can't be unreservedly said of Lovecraft's work; witness the endless piles of egocentric garbage composed by his admirers, for some of whose efforts outlandish claims to literary excellence are made. Smith is indeed the better author. He appeals more forcefully to what Dr. Johnson called "the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices," taken to be the chief "criterion of literary fame" (S.C. Roberts, "The Cult of Sherlock").

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2017 09:12AM
They were equal geniuses, but different in approach. Personally I think Lovecraft was greater. Smith may have been a better writer technically (although I am not so sure; Lovecraft's wrting was perhaps "clumsy", on and off, (I don't see it that way myself), but he was a sorceror with words in his own right, each completed story resulting in a powerful spell.). Technicality does not count for everything. The overall movement is the most important. Smith was also cooler and more detached, except for grim sardonic humour. He was better at painting visuals with words, colorful exotic settings, ... but Lovercraft had a wider wisdom, and understanding of vital meaning, and consequently was a greater authority. Smith was a reincarnated voice from Hyperborea, Zothique, and Xiccarph. But none of his invented creatures can measure themselves with Cthulhu. Lovecraft sweeps the floor here.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 6 April, 2017 02:31PM
I agree that they were equal geniuses. So how does it follow that Lovecraft displays a "wider wisdom," or "greater authority," or "understanding of vital meaning" than Smith? What a ridiculous claim. Lovecraft said that he liked Hitler, but what Germany really needed was a Mussolini. What a pearl of wisdom that was. Smith on the other hand did not believe Socialism could ever work in America and rejected it, unlike HPL. Any form of the supernatural was rejected out of hand as unscientific by Lovecraft; whereas, no such dogmatism was embraced by Smith. By "supernatural" I do not of course refer to religion in any way, but HPL's skills as a debater on that subject are possibly overrated (like the Rainbow Coalition). Repetitious as opposed to convincing on all points. BTW, I meant to say that Akeley lost the Wilmarth correspondence, not "destroyed" it--same difference. As far as what you mean by "the overall movement" of a story being the essential factor, I will concede the point, but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect. The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times. Yes, "Cthulhu" is an almost perfect story; too bad Farnsworth Wright foolishly rejected it as its acceptance might have buoyed up Lovecraft's confidence and led him to avoid certain lapses in the seriousness of tone shown in some later works ("The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Shadow Out of Time," "The Haunter of the Dark"), to which I have alluded. Self-parody does nothing to enhance horror. With regard to prose realism, btw, Henry S. Whitehead was superior to both Smith and Lovecraft; he's the only Weird Tales author who is seriously underappreciated.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 04:15AM
<<but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect.>>

Since it didn't have that effect on me, that is a statement of personal taste, not a statement of fact.

<<The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times.>>

Roerich is mentioned 7 times. I see no problem with that.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 12:23PM
I thought Roerich was mentioned 8 or 9 times, if precision matters here. Taste is everything, as Poe said. Or nothing. You even praised "In the Walls of Eryx". Do you like "Out of the Aeons" too? Anyway, I have no "problem" with the cross-referencing or sardonic reflexive bits in the tales I mentioned; they reflect his primary literary influences and are intended to accent his cosmicism. Which is the central effect. Flaws may affect that effect; for example, with only a couple of edits, he could have made the narrator less of a credulous stooge in "The Whisperer in Darkness". In the Antarctic novel, the narrator resorts to similar specious reasoning about the cause of the deaths of Lake's party when it is obvious to the reader what has actually occurred. But in that case HPL had less viable alternatives. The reference to Smith and the Necronomicon, on the other hand, could have been omitted or altered, intensifying, arguably, both the horror at Lake's camp and the controversial ending of the novel. Smith's more balanced approach eschews the deliberate minimalization of potential characterization which Lovecraft, the more idiosyncratic author of the two, preferred to exercise.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 12:51AM
Roerich is referenced 6 times, mea culpa, but one of the references comes from Lake, the biologist leading the doomed detachment. So he's just a mouthpiece for the narrator; no individuation or dialogues as in Smith, whose tales also have more colorful descriptive detail and physical movement, generally.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 12:57AM by Kipling.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 11:15AM
I adore "Out of ye Aeons," especially as I judge it to be almoft entirely Lovecraft's text. The tale captivated me when I first read it at a young age, and does not disappoint whenever I return to it. Lovecraft's description of the singular crouching mummy with shrivelled features that actually elicit an emotional response from viewers is brilliant. I have dreamt, more than once, of wandering that hall of mummies, and once wrote an early tale set therein. Shub-Niggurath is distinctly referred as a female entity--a point that is still debated, for I believe that elsewhere she is described as a kind of airy element akin to ye colour out of space. The references to the Black Book form one of my favourite Lovecraftian tropes. I've return'd to ye tale often and it never fails to entertain.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 11:18AM by wilum pugmire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 9 April, 2017 01:23PM
"Coming then to a wayside shrine of Yuckla, the small and grotesque god of laughter, whose influence was believed to be mainly benignant, they were glad to go no farther on that day, but took shelter in the crumbling shrine for fear of the ghouls and devils, who might dwell in such vicinage to those accursed ruins." ("The Weaver in the Vault")

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 10:57AM
walrus Wrote:
> HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in
> horror.

And yet I find "Herbert West" and "The Lurking Fear" to be hilarious.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 11:58AM
On a sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph level, CAS is the better writer. He is leaner, meaner, tighter, and more elegant. However, when it comes to comparing the whole to the sum of its parts, HPL tends to make up for lost ground.

I won't necessarily say that HPL pulls ahead, because I have yet to read everything by CAS.

I once read "The Shadow over Innsmouth" aloud to someone, who was snickering at his prose the whole time, but who at the end admitted the story had an impact that sneaks up on you and gets to you in the end.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 16 May 17 | 11:58AM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 02:48PM
Well put Platypus. I agree, but could not put it into words as clearly.

I think it is impossible to objectively say that one, on the whole, is a better writer than the other. Nature does not allow itself to be measured that way. Only in the simplistic little games we humans make up, when chasing time or length.
We can compare different aspects of their writing (like Sawfish so wisely does above), and see weaknesses and strengths, but we should refrain from saying than one is a better writer than the other on the whole.

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